Hypothetically, I enjoy going to church. I love listening to the lessons and talks, I enjoy thinking about the Savior. I look forward to taking the sacrament, and I enjoy seeing my friends and neighbors. This is a hypothetical because these things rarely happen the way I picture them. With four small children in my and my husband's charge, I've ended an hour and ten minutes long Sacrament meeting in tears (and not because I felt the Spirit, but because I felt that cheerios spread all over the pew was possibly the last straw in my life), spent the whole meeting in the foyer cajoling an angry, yelling child, and looked longingly at the clock more than once while holding an exhausted-because-it's-naptime child.
For the past eight years, I've learned the same lesson from church: "Endure to the End." (People around our family are probably learning a different lesson about Loving Your Neighbor Even If Their Kids Kick the Pew and Spit Water on Your Suit.) Since having my first child eight years ago on Tuesday, I have gotten the same message every week in one form or another. Since we are LDS (Mormon) and the speakers are different each week, I'm pretty sure that other messages have been presented, but every week I get the same message--"Endure to the End."
Today was especially harrowing as it was our two hour Stake Conference. The speakers were prepared and entertaining with relevant messages (At least that's what I thought from the few sentences I managed to catch between constant demands for a sucker punctuated with the two-year-old trying to get a concussion by violently laying backwards on my lap; reverently reminding the eight-year-old to use her quiet voice and not sing opera style during the hymns; Mike and I constantly pushing the chairs forward that had crept into the knees of the people behind us, and taking turns rubbing the five-year-old's back and reassuring her that it would all be over soon in an attempt to keep her from throwing herself on the floor in an all-out fit of hunger and boredom.)
We brought snacks, but apparently you need to bring five times as many snacks as for a regular meeting. Crayons were good for about 20 minutes, and at the end when the two-year-old dumped them all over the floor Mike declared, "You are all allowed one crayon apiece next time." And one sliver of bread and a straightjacket with muzzle attachment.
With five minutes to go, my six-year-old niece who had been quietly coloring in her chair came over to Hannah and whispered sweetly, "Hannah, I have good news! There are only five minutes left!" That good news was almost as good as the Gospel, but not quite. Which is why we keep going back to learn the same lesson, armed with cheerios. In a world that tears families apart and that teaches that the most important thing in life is gratifying your selfish self, the LDS Church is a harbor and a safe haven for our family. Mike and I know that at church is the best place to find answers to how to raise your kids. And even if the only lesson I learn each week happens to be "Endure to the End," that's not a bad lesson to learn.